An open letter to those concerned about ‘Come Heckle Christ’

“Come Heckle Christ was a premise borne out of 3 very simple ideas:

  1. It so happens that I bear a resemblance to the classic Orthodox image of Jesus Christ (long hair, beard, “kind face”), though in reality of course, if such a Person named Jesus Christ existed, he almost certainly would have been short in stature, brown in complexion, with short hair and no beard, as was the aesthetic norm in ancient Galilee.
  2. I had a desire to branch out into new, less scripted areas of theatre & comedy after having done my other character, Dr. Professor Neal Portenza for almost 4 years.
  3. In my previous Neal Portenza show, I had a small section where I invited the audience to heckle me, which was a consistently funny segment, so naturally the idea to expand this into a full length show was one that I was keen to pursue.


If it in any way provides comfort, I would like you to know that if I bore resemblance to Buddha, Mohammed, Vishnu, King David or L. Ron Hubbard, I would almost certainly have pursued the same show idea under one of the aforementioned monikers.


It also bears mentioning that this isn’t a show attacking Jesus Christ or Christianity in any way. Though, as a former Christian and current agnostic, I don’t believe in anything other than the principal message of Christianity (one of love), I am not using this performance as a platform for quasi-theological attack. I equally reject the validity and teachings of all religions but am in no way signalling out Christianity as being any better or worse than the other major religions. This show is little more than a (very) catchy title, which gives me a chance to improvise and create some unique comedy/theatre with an audience of willing participants.


The assumption here which is perhaps at the heart of the offence taken, is that the show is designed to denigrate Christianity, and this assumption is simply not valid. I have performed this show once, to great acclaim in Melbourne, and the show (to my surprise and delight) contained almost no negative references to Jesus or Christianity. The audience drive the narrative and generally speaking, it would be fair to assume the audience won’t be predominantly comprised of evangelical Christians (though I would be keen to perform to such a room), which implies that all manner of topics are shouted as heckles - a very broad range indeed. Further, I'm forced to think on my feet (there is no script) and I may choose to defend Jesus & Christianity as I retort certain heckles. As such, I’d invite you to come along to the performance free of charge, and see if your perception isn’t ill-founded.


I don’t want to waffle on, but, this is the Adelaide Fringe. This show could not be more in the spirit of what the Fringe is supposed to be about. It’s about pushing boundaries, creating new, exciting, interesting works, rather than just seeing middle-class, white males from the television perform an hour of re-hashed stand-up comedy (though, admittedly, there is a place for this). Adelaidians ought be privileged with the vast range of local, national and international acts that grace the city for this very special month. Certainly, not every show will be to one’s taste, but such is the nature of the Fringe, and such is the nature of Australian democracy - a boring but stable and stupefyingly successful brand of social democracy that affords us such luxuries as festivals where artists have the right to free expression.  Personally, I draw the line at men making rape jokes - I find the topic off limits as a male can simply not step inside the mind of a female victim, and such “jokes” are almost always insulting, offensive, derivative, lazy and unfunny. The topic has been expertly dealt with by Adrienne Truscott though, in a show that’s bound to excite & offend; a show I very highly recommend.


In conclusion, I respect your right to be offended at the nature of my show (although, admittedly, you haven’t seen it and don't know what content the show contains; nor do I, as it’s entirely improvised), and I respect your right to observe your faith. All I ask is to please afford me the same courtesy by respecting my right to perform a show in the spirit of this amazing Fringe Festival and exercise my right of free expression. In the event you don’t end up seeing the performance, please consider my other show, ‘Dr. Professor Neal Portenza performs his own autopsy live on stage. One night only. (Obviously).' It’s more of an absurdist, high-energy performance with less reference to religion.


Many thanks,

Joshua J. Ladgrove.”